Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is taking part in the battle against cancer and giving back hope to the families of sick children.
8-YEAR-OLD IN REMISSION FROM CANCER
8-year-old Frankie-Rose Lea, who was diagnosed with cancer in her brain and spine on August 4 last year, is now in remission after pioneering proton radiotherapy in the US.
Following a public appeal last year, the family managed to raise £190,000 and fly Frankie-Rose to Oklahoma City on November 25, where she underwent six weeks of proton beam therapy in the ProCure Proton Therapy Center. Proton beam therapy achieves the same cell-killing effect as conventional radiotherapy but differs because the beam of protons stops once it “hits” the cancerous cells, causing much less damage to surrounding tissue. Her mom Lea and her family have thanked the public for the hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations raised for the expensive treatment. Today, Frankie-Rose has been given the wonderful news that her tumors are in remission. She will have an appointment early next year in the UK, with regular checkups needed for the next five years. Her mom said: “It’s the best thing ever, like winning the lottery 10 times. I haven’t dreamt of anything else but now it is here it is very surreal. She has conquered it. She’s a superhero in an eight-year-old’s skin. You can’t deny the science, which has been a major part of it, but everybody who got involved made a difference – I do think it is a miracle. The treatment has only become feasible because people got behind us. Although it’s early days we’re extremely happy.”
DESPERATE MUM RAISING FUNDS TO FLY FAMILY TO THE US
A mother of 3 from the UK is desperately fundraising while she waits for the call to say she can take her 13-year-old son Alfie Barrett to America for the life-saving treatment he needs to get rid of his tangerine-sized brain tumor.
Since his recent second relapse, Alfie’s family has been getting ready to drop everything to spend 9 weeks in the States so he can get the proton treatment he needs to stay alive. His mother Kelly, 35, has been in a living nightmare since her first-born was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 5 in February 2007. Two years of chemotherapy gave the growing boy lasting nerve damage, but did not shrink the tumor, which could not be operated on because it was so close to his brain stem. At least it became inactive and doctors said Alfie was in remission. “I didn’t ever think it would come back,” said his mom, but in 2012, her son mentioned he was having headaches. And when he woke one night with a numb left arm and a high temperature, she rushed him to hospital to learn that his tumor was growing again. After another year of chemo, Alfie went back into remission but last month, Kelly heard the words she had been dreading: ‘mum, I’ve got a headache’. The only option left open now is to get proton therapy, which can target the tumor directly instead of blasting everything in the vicinity like chemotherapy. As proton therapy is not available in the UK, Kelly is now frantically making arrangements for her and her three children to go to America as soon as possible. The founder of MumMum Foundation for moms with cancer has started a JustGiving page for Kelly to raise the money she needs to get her family out to America and a bit more besides to send them on a much-needed holiday after Alfie’s treatment. To donate, visit https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/gary-valentinefuller-4
FAMILY HOPEFUL AFTER PROTON THERAPY
2-year-old Theo Ward is back home after undergoing pioneering proton beam therapy in Florida. His family will have to wait possibly for years to know whether the treatment has been successful in obliterating the youngster’s tumor.
The NHS funded proton therapy after Theo was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma. As developed behind his left eye, the tumor was inoperable and the treatment in Florida was deemed his best chance of beating the disease. Theo has been enduring regular chemotherapy sessions over the past year, which continued in Florida alongside the new treatment. He was accompanied to America by his parents and big sister, who spent almost 8 weeks living in an apartment while he spent up to 3 hours a day in hospital, almost every day of their trip. “It was quite intensive, but he was so good,” said his mom. “The proton treatment only took about ten minutes a day, but he would be in hospital for two to three hours every time. His eye went really red and was very sensitive, just like an intense sunburn, which is all part of it and we were completely prepared for that. Luckily he was not sick or anything, he handled it really well and it just became normal for him.” Now back home, the family have to play the waiting game. “It will be at least a year until we know if it has worked, it could even be a number of years. We were told the chance of Theo having vision in that eye is unlikely, but we don’t know that yet either. We are just all looking forward to getting back to some sort of normality. We are hopeful that everything will be OK, that’s all we can be.”